Title: Political Islam: Explaining the Sources of Accommodation and Violence
Name: Mohammed Hafez
Visiting Professor of Political Science
University of Missouri - Kansas City
(913) 253-4702
Year: 1998
Type: Dissertation Fellowship

Rejecting theories of economic deprivation and psychological alienation, I offer an analysis of the institutional, organizational, and ideological factors that contribute to rebellion, protracted conflict, and anti-civilian violence in the Muslim world today.

I combine a sophisticated social movement theory approach and detailed case studies to show that the primary source of Islamist insurgencies can be found in the repressive political environments within which the vast majority of Muslims find themselves. Highlighting when and how institutional exclusion and indiscriminate repression contribute to large-scale rebellion, I provide a crucial dimension to our understanding of the dynamics of Islamist mobilization in places like Algeria, Egypt, Kashmir, Southern Philippines, Chechnya, and Tajikistan. In doing so, I attempt to bridge the gap between social movement theory and Islamic movement studies, as well as offer policy prescriptions for policymakers in the West and the Muslim world on how best to deal with Islamic militancy.

The major finding of my study is that Muslims rebel because they encounter an ill-fated combination of political and institutional exclusion, on the one hand, and reactive and indiscriminate repression on the other. When states do not provide their Islamist opposition movements opportunities for institutional participation, and employ repression indiscriminately against these movements after a period of prior mobilization, Islamists will most probably rebel. When they do so, Islamists will organize themselves in exclusive, loosely structured organizations that demand strict ideological and behavioral adherence from their members. These organizations draw a sharp dividing line between insiders and outsiders, as well as produce "spirals of encapsulation" that gradually isolate Islamist rebels from their broader environment. These rebels will also rely on anti-system ideologies that portray the conflict as a "total war" against irremediable enemies and deny the possibility of neutrality in such a war. Such framing of the conflict is intended to solidify the division between insiders and outsiders, as well as justify and motivate collective violence.

The combination of exclusive mobilization structures and anti-system ideological frames is conducive for protracted conflict and expansive anti-civilian violence. Movements that consist of exclusive, loosely knit groups speak with many voices and are less likely to coalesce around common solutions to end violence. They are more likely to compete and sabotage each other than they are to unite and agree on ways to promote reconciliation. Violence against civilians is one way to undermine peace efforts and ensure that the conflicting parties are irreparably polarized. Such violence is made possible by anti-system frames that facilitate the deactivation of moral codes against killing and injuring noncombatants.

Bibliography: Hafez, M. Armed Islamist Movements and Political Violence in Algeria. Middle East Journal (Autumn 2000, Vol. 54, No. 4).
Hafez, M. Why Muslims Rebel: Repression and Resistance in the Islamic World (Lynne Rienner, 2003).